Author Topic: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%  (Read 3203 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Pylon

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 610
[IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 14:06:20 »
243004-0

This is an interest check  for a compact 120% keyboard I'm working on, based on the Acheron Austin. Currently the prototype design (both PCB and case) are pretty finished, and I'll be sending out for prototype parts shortly and building a prototype. This is the first custom keyboard I've designed, though I have a mechanical engineering background and have done other electronics projects before.

243830-1
243832-2
243834-3
243836-4
243838-5
243840-6
243014-7

Here are the intended specifications:
  • 121-keys in ANSI configuration - full-size + 18 programmable keys, located above the F-row and above the arrow keys
  • About 2u narrower than a regular full-size
  • USB-C
  • CNC aluminum case, with bottom brass weight
  • Top-mount
  • Probably $400-$600 in cost (based on current CNC machining quotes, depends on volume)
  • 6.4 typing angle (subject to change, might offer multiple typing angles as it just requires the bottom brass weight to be swapped)
  • Rotary encoder support, above the Esc key
  • ISO support (requires different plate)
  • Traditional 2x3 Ins/Del/Home/End/PgUp/PgDn nav block
  • Full-sized numpad with 2u "0" key
  • Uses keys generally found in GMK base kits (except for programmable keys)
  • All-through hole on the main PCB, except for optional backlight LED resistors. All other SMD components on a daughterboard
  • QMK
  • Optional single-color LED backlight support (this may be dependent on the state of QMK ARM backlight support, but the hardware will be there)
  • Electrical schematic and design largely derived from the Austin
  • Controller on a daughterboard that fits under the F5-F8 keys, to reduce prototyping costs (small <100x100mm PCBs are dirt cheap, while large keyboard-sized PCBs are easily $100 per revision)
  • Currently intend to use an STM32F072 controller (may revert to AT90USB1286, TBD

The layout for this was inspired by the Austin and also by the 7-row Thinkpad keyboard you find on Thinkpads of the T420 generation and older. The general idea was to make a narrower full-size that retained both the 2u numpad "0" and traditional 2x3 Ins/Del/Home/End/PgUp/PgDn nav block, by expanding vertically. This would allow for an easy transition for full-sized users like me (I've been using full-sized keyboards my whole life). I also figured that since there was a 7th-row, I could easily add a set of programmable keys above the F-keys and make it a compact battleship.

The name is somewhat a pun off Austin since the layout is derived from it, and because I grew up (and currently live) in the city Boston, Massachusetts.

I'm not great with doing renders, so I'll update this with renders with keycaps (or just assembled physical prototype pictures) soon.

This project uses the open-source Acheron library from the Acheron project. KiCAD PCB files are available at my Github below. I'll release the case files after the GB if it runs.
https://github.com/bluepylons/Boston

Geekhack build thread is here:
https://geekhack.org/index.php?topic=106239.0

IC Form/Survey here!

Many thanks to Gondolindrim for the Acheron project and for feedback on the early PCBs, and to the designers of the Austin (Driftingbunnies, PheonixStarr and Gondolindrim) from which this was derived.

(post revisions)
5/20 - initial post
5/20 - replaced renders with ones that accurately depict the seam in the middle
5/29 - moved F-keys over rightward slightly. Bottom weight is now aluminum instead of brass as the keyboard is pretty heavy to begin with.
« Last Edit: Fri, 29 May 2020, 18:30:14 by Pylon »

Offline pears

  • Posts: 17
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 14:09:17 »
big

Offline hali

  • Posts: 2
  • Location: Ontario
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #2 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 14:15:42 »
a brass weight sounds a little overkill for this absolute unit

Offline norb

  • Posts: 123
  • Location: ger
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #3 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 14:17:56 »
will need some massive novelty packs when you wanna put a single keyset on it  :eek:

Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #4 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 14:51:54 »
I don't usually 1800 but I've wanted a multiple f-row board for a long time.

Offline Butterbeer

  • Posts: 55
  • Location: California
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #5 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 15:12:50 »
This is really just a giant Artisan display board :-)



Offline Pylon

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 610
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #6 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 15:14:31 »
The case has a seam - I can't get the seam to display in the renders for some reason (will try to resolve and update the renders)

The layout and electrical schematic are derived from the Austin. The PCB and case are entirely new.

Offline Slash Emperor

  • Posts: 451
  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Lust for life lost, keyboards acquired.
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #7 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 15:37:37 »
Welp, I gotta get the Boston and represent. Plus, this would be great for Skiidata and the relegendable keycaps.

Sent from my Pixel 3 XL using Tapatalk


Offline Capsy

  • Posts: 251
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #8 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 15:54:12 »
Looks decent. Love the experiment with the layout. Couple of things:

1] The weight will most likely make the back of the keyboard insanely heavy and awkward when picking it up or moving around. I'd suggest a smaller weight or a centered weight to drop in at the back if you still want to keep it as heavy as this design.

2] I'd bring the LED lights closer to each other.

Offline Pylon

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 610
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #9 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 16:13:00 »
Thanks for the feedback Capsy - right now the case weighs about 3kg. I might just make the "weight" piece out of aluminum which would shave a kg off and lower the price a bit (brass is $$$). The piece also serves to set the angle and to cover the bottom of the controller daughterboard, so the location can't really change.

I'll consider moving the LEDs closer  together - right now they are aligned with the three keys above it.

Offline Pylon

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 610
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #10 on: Wed, 20 May 2020, 16:51:20 »
Renders updated to better show the seam in the case (I had to edit the Fusion joint and add a 0.3mm gap to get it to show up in the renders)

Offline Evilocity

  • Posts: 61
  • Location: Ontario, Canada
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #11 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 10:14:16 »
That's a lot of artisan holders!

Offline dani_

  • Posts: 14
  • Location: Santa Barbara, California
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #12 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 11:46:28 »
These massive layouts usually do nothing for me but I have to say I really dig this one. Have you considered a 2u vertical key in the function row? Similar to the tall Escape and Delete in the old school Thinkpads?

Offline Pylon

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 610
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #13 on: Thu, 21 May 2020, 11:50:49 »
Have you considered a 2u vertical key in the function row? Similar to the tall Escape and Delete in the old school Thinkpads?

I thought about doing a 2u vertical Esc key before I put the encoder in (the lone 1u Esc key looked a bit awkward), but no one makes a 2u vertical Esc key (I suppose I could get one dye subbed and that's it), or 2u vertical keys in general that aren't blanks or numpad keys (though Cherry did make a relegendable one that's shown up  in a couple of point-of-sale boards)

Offline Pylon

  • Thread Starter
  • Posts: 610
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #14 on: Fri, 29 May 2020, 18:46:12 »
Hey all, some updates:

  • I reached out to three different US vendors to ask to partner with a group buy. Two have declined as they said they already had a lot of keyboard GBs in their queue and would not be able to take on more. The third has not responded for several days.
  • If no vendors agree to partner, I would fulfill the GB myself. This would likely result in:
    • A fairly low limit on the number of spots in the first round, probably between 10-25. For QC reasons I would have to order extras due to potential QC rejects, so there will probably be an extras/scratch+dent round where I sell off QC rejects at a lower price.
    • Since I haven’t run a GB before, and there are obvious trust issues with first-time GBs not run through a vendor, I might end up having to fund and stock R1 myself and just sell the kits myself. This would most likely limit R1 to <10 units.
    • Only offering raw-machined aluminum for the case, as I’ve been reading plenty of horror stories about QC issues with anodization (the Norbatouch designer states that cosmetic defects can be present on >50% of parts received, and I don’t have the resources to hound suppliers or risk losing money running a GB due to QC issues. If R1 goes well I may try to find a US-based anodization shop and try to offer anodization and colors in R2 (or offer powder-coating or Cerakote or whatever)
    • If R1 goes well I would probably do an R2 with more spots, or possibly an unrestricted R2 (ideally with a vendor partner)
  • I reworked the CAD somewhat to try to make the case narrower, and moved the F-keys over rightwards to free up more space around the rotary encoder. This also makes the gaps between key groups consistent. I also simplified the bottom piece, and changed it from brass to aluminum as the keyboard probably does not need additional weight, and aluminum is much cheaper. I updated the renders to reflect this.
  • Expecting to have a CNC prototype built in about two or three weeks. Sent out updated files today to SuNPe, and should be placing orders for PCBs and case parts shortly
  • I designed a couple of 3D-printed designs (including a sandwich case) that I got quoted with US-based 3D-printing and laser-cutting services Xometry and Sendcutsend, but it ends up not being much cheaper than Chinese CNC aluminum above volumes of 25 (though shipping costs from China right now are killer so it might still be worth it). I might attempt designing a sheet metal case and getting it quoted with a local sheet metal shop to see if it ends up being cheaper.
  • I compiled a rough BOM, and will probably price this between $400-$500 with an unanodized CNC aluminum case, though pending accurate shipping cost quotes from China.

Also thank you all for responding to the Interest Check form. So far it looks like:
  • Most people (43%) have no preference on typing angle, with 6-7 and 7-8 being about equally popular for those that have a preference. I'll shoot for 7 in that case
  • Black and dark gray are the most popular colors. Unfortunately, unless I can find a vendor to partner I'm unlikely to offer anodization on R1 so it will probably have to be silver for now.
  • 20% of people expressed interest in ISO support. I will design an ISO plate and offer it, though due to lower quantities it will probably cost slightly more.
  • Brass, POM, and aluminum are the most popular plate materials. I'm building the prototype with stainless steel (I've only used steel plates to date), but will offer those materials. I do have some concerns with POM and aluminum ending up with scratches and other surface-finish issues when arriving from the laser-cutter, and aluminum tends to have serious burrs after laser-cutting, so I will have to resolve those issues (or offer a disclaimer that plates may come with small scratches)
« Last Edit: Fri, 29 May 2020, 18:47:54 by Pylon »

Offline Aiwanei

  • Posts: 30
Re: [IC] Boston, an open-source Austin-derived compact 120%
« Reply #15 on: Sat, 30 May 2020, 11:30:24 »
As a local to the Boston Area, I'm in like flynn